The Outlaw Life

running, reading, blogging, loving

[24] “Every Vein a Tooth”

on March 5, 2013

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But when I lay in bed at night I saw the deep absesses on the chests of the sheep, dragging themselves to food and water across a rock-strewn lawn. The scared eyes of the feral cats underneath the sofa. I felt the warm bodies of the retrievers next to me, the kind of limitless love other people dreamed of and I had – all to myself.

I think it’s a good sign when a story collection gets more powerful as it continues. I don’t know if Birds of a Lesser Paradise really follows, like, a linear pattern of improvement (there are some down bits in the middle, and one of my favorite stories comes at the beginning) but I do know that my top two favorite stories within this collection come towards the very end. This is one of them, the other one I’ll talk about in a few days (which will be my last individual story review before I go over my thoughts of the collection as a whole).

To get the basics out of the way, we have yet another unnamed narrator and her lover, Gray. Our narrator works with an animal rights and rescue organization, and her home is filled with broken and unwanted animals – one dog missing a leg, one with epilepsy, feral cats, a sick raccoon… Her lover, Gray, is a hunter who values and collects perfect and undamaged tree leaves. During the story, our narrator brings home two sheep taken from squalid conditions, and one of her dogs eats Gray’s leaf collection – Gray leaves, and our narrator must decided if she will go after Gray or continue to live the life she has – with her animals. An underlying storyline involves our narrator and her mother and her mother’s collection of Victorian Christmas villages, to which the narrator feels almost constantly compared.

Needless to say, Megan’s language in this story is absolutely stunning. What makes this story my favorite, even though it shares so many common thematic qualities with the other stories, is that Megan has managed to capture, with her language, the same feeling that comes over me when I catch my dog’s eyes right before I leave the house – confusion and hurt, but stemming from love and loyalty. And then, because Megan is a master, three pages later she evokes the same sense of joy I feel when I come home to see my dog’s tale wagging – and the larger feeling of knowing that there is some being out there that loves me with an almost nonsensical loyalty. This idea gets echoed twofold in the foil of itself (man that’s a confusing sentence – let me explain): all of the love we see our narrator given is the same kind of judgement she feels from her mother’s village sets, these porcelain fake smiles and gingerbread tackiness; it’s as if her animals and her mother’s memories pull on our narrator in opposite directions, and when she can’t make up her mind, Gray just can’t wait.

This story definitely had the most ambiguous ending thus far, as it seems like our narrator is content with the decision she makes, her last moments seem to be one of regret for giving away the things we love – I wonder if the ambiguity isn’t part of the point, that maybe it means that we, as humans, can love equally but oppositely, and that sometimes we give up what we love to gain what we love more.

Rating: OMFGZ!

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